One Year

Yesterday, July 1, was the first anniversary of Burns the Attorney.
Ive been incredibly lucky. Its been a really good first year.

I have wonderful clients, both new and old, who honor me with their trust. I take very seriously their reliance on me to do my best for them because, in very important ways, it means I help them focus on being creative professionals. Think about it: which would an artist rather do, make new art or chase down people who have used existing art without permission or payment?

That is most of what I do, helping artists with copyright infringement matters. But I do other legal work as well, of course. In the past year, Ive helped clients with contracts and releases, discussed business formations and the effects of community property on clients copyrights, and, well, lots of other things too.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to do what she really loves. I do, and I am so grateful for it.

I want to thank all of my clients and, in advance, all of those who will call on me to help in the future. I intend to be here for some time, serving artists of all sorts.

If you ever need me, you know where to find me.

And thanks.

The Drone Law Is Dead…Not

Last Friday, a Federal Circuit Court overturned the registration requirement for drones. Many people are hailing thisas the death of drone laws, but that’s not even vaguely accurate. At most, it may mean that people won’t need to register their drones at all or at least not if only used for hobby use (read: not as a part of your business). It may, however, be appealed or Congress could take action. DroneLife has a good article on the possible implications. Short answer: this still isn’t settled so don’t get too excited, yet.

Very importantly, this ruling, even if it stands, doesn’t affect operational rules that are tied to safety, like no-fly zones. It’s only about the registration requirement. Also, it is just about a federal regulation. States have their own and those are not affected by this ruling. Jonathan Rupprecht (Ruprecht Law) is an expert in drone law and has this page where you can look up your state’s laws and regulations. Do it.

I encourage any operatorto know her/his/theirapplicablestate’s laws (and federal ones) and to operate drones responsibly. Actually, I encourage people to reconsider using drones for the most part.Photographers and videographers have some legitimate uses for drones, but too often people are using them in ways that aren’t worth the downsides. Usinga drone inany sort of wilderness area, for example, makes for noise pollution for the creatures and the humans who are there to commune with nature. Drones generally are annoying to others and, often, an operator will be violating someone’s privacy in their use. I personally have experienced this–a neighbor buzzed me while I was in my own back yard. When I told him not to do that he was not exactly apologetic about his actions. He probably still believeshis right to fly isgreater than my right not to be buzzed and (probably) photographed. Don’t be that guy.

But if you do choose to use a drone, besides being a decent human about it, make sure you know all the applicable laws and regs–both fed and for your state and the state where you’ll be operating it (if you travel).

Thank you

Every year I’m thankful for what I get to do. Usually, I express that at the holidays by buying toys for Toys for Tots, in the names of my clients. This year I was motivated to do something a bit different.

The photo above isof kits I have put together for the homeless here in San Diego. San Diego has a huge problem with homelessness, for many reasons including that it is damn expensive to live here, and many of them live in Balboa Park and nearby areas. I see these people often (my boyfriend lives near the park) and each time I’m reminded of how fortunate I am not to be one of them. I could have and, if the statistics were predictive, one could say I should have, but somehow I managed instead to not end up on the streets; in fact, I’ve done okay.

Obviously, I can’t fix things for these people. I can’t even come close. But I thought that maybe some fresh basic necessities would make a fewlives a little less difficult. So, I purchased a bunch of things like socks and soap and microfiber cloths and chapstick (and other stuff). For the women, I bought a ton of tampons, as the only thing worse than being homeless has got to be being homeless on your period. I got really big ziplock bags to hold each kit and, the otherevening, I put them together (which is a bit of a stunt with a little kitten in the house). In the next few days, with the help of my boyfriend, I’ll be handing these out.

I could have sent my clients individual gifts but, really, I think most of them have the things they need and can buy most of the things they want, andthe money will do these other people more good.

[UPDATE: We handed them out yesterday (Sunday the 18th) morning and the recipients were happily surprised and gracious. All save one (who said nothing but noddded) said things like “Thank you!” and “God bless you!” so I’m passing their thoughts on to you.]

What I want to say, though, is that I couldn’t do this if it weren’t for each one of you, my clients. Thank you for a successful first six months of this practice and for trusting me with your legal needs. I appreciate every one of you more than I can say.

May you have the happiest of holidays with whomever you love, and in 2017 may you be healthy, happy, at ease, and free from suffering.

 

New Rules (probably)

The US Copyright Office is proposing new rules for registering photographs and it is asking for comments on these rules. There are three main categories with proposed changes: supplemental registrations, group registration of contributions to periodicals, and group registration of photographs.

The last one is likely the most important one for most photographers, so I want to talk about it, mostly, in this post. You can go here to read the official information(pdf), but I suspect most of you would rather poke yourself in the eye with a sharp stick as it’s written in governmental legalese. Here’re the basics you might want to know before wading into the Federal Register.

First, all group registrations of published photos (designated GRPPH) will have to be submitted electronically (no more paper options) with digital images submitted as deposit copies. Second, the maximum number of photos permitted in a single registration will be 750. Third, photographers would have to submit a separate list of all the photos being submitted as a part of the group “with a title, file name (matching the file name of the corresponding deposit copy), and in the case of GRPPH, the month and year of publication 29 (e.g., January 2016, February 2016, etc.) for each photograph in the group.” Finally, the deposit copies must be submitted in electronic form but you can send them on a disk or flash drive or upload them (with a 500MB limit per file uploaded).

Importantly, the last significant changeis that they are proposing a new category of Group Unpublished Photographs (designated GRUPH); before one could do an “unpublished collection” but this new category would replace that and have all the same requirements as the Group Published Photographs, including the 750 photos limitation and the list (but without publication dates, of course).

The only major difference between the two groups is that for published photos, the photos have to have been published within the same calendar year but the unpublished ones are not limited by time. Besides that, the groups must be only photographs and the photographs must be created by the same photographer–no mixing like 25 photos by Photo Bob and 32 photos by Photo Betty. Both the Group Published Photographs and the Group Unpublished Photographs registrations will be $55 per registration.

As always, you still may not mix published and unpublished in a single registration. That isn’t going to change with these rules chages, although I suspect that these changes may be a step in that eventual direction (maybe).

The Copyright Office is proposing to eliminate the pilot program for the Group Published registrations and to change the application process, to streamline it more. The Unpublished and the Published processes will be very much the same. Photographers will be encouraged to list the titles (and publication dates for published works) on the application itself as that will put them on the Certificate and that gives you advantages legally (I’m not going into that here, though–just do it) but, at a minimum, you’ll have to submit the list with all that information with the deposit copies (still, take the time to list the titles, it will be worth it).

Most importantly, the proposed rule would clarify that the single registration of a group confers full protection for each individual photograph in the group. That would eliminate the arguments that defendants use to try and limit the damages (or argue fair use) we see in court sometimes, like that using one image out of a registration of 500 items is de minimis since it’s only 1/500th of the whole. This is a very good thing.

To submit comments on these new proposed rules, first read the details in the pdf linked to above, then you can comment by going here. Note that comments are due by January 3, 2017.

The Supplementary Registration is used to correct errors or make changes to an existing registration. Hopefully, you’ll never need to file one, but if you do you’re very likely going to have to do it electronically in the future. For more information on the proposed changes or to make comments, go here.

If you make contributions to periodicals, you may use that form of registration (GRCP) and there are changes there as well. Mostly, it is about making the registrations electronic, much like the Group Photo options I described above (are you seeing a theme here?). Notably, the Copyright Office notes in the Group Registrations proposed changes that it encourages photographers to use those options instead of the GRCP as there are fewer limitations. Still, if you use this form of registration (and this applies to text as well as photos, by the way), you should go here to read about the changes and to submit comments.

Excited and humbled

Today is the first day of this new practice. My new practice. It is the culmination of a lot of dreaming and a lot of work and many years of patience.

I wanted to go to law school for a very long time. In fact, I took the LSATs 3 times, not because I did poorly (the opposite, actually) but because my scores expired before I could get all the pieces to work so that I could attend. Scores last for 5 years so you can do the math there. Finally, everything came together and I happily did the work of being a full scholarship law student. I graduated a trimester early and passed the notoriously difficult California Bar on my first try. Then Istarted lawyeringwith Carolyn Wright (photoattorney.com) which was outstanding training in exactly the work I wanted to do (she is a great mentor to whom I owe so much).

And now, today, I get to hangmy (virtual)shingle. Burns the Attorney. Wow. It’s very exciting for me.Thank you to everyone who made this possible. I’m humbled to get to do this.

Thank you also to the clients who have already contacted me for new representation (and it’s not even 9am here as I type this!). It is my intentionto serve you all well, honorably, and as much like a decent human as any lawyer can be.

Let’s do this.

Before Means Before

Y’all are probably sick of hearing me nag about registering your work as soon as possible, but here is a great example of why I do that. In a recent opinion the court wrote (emphasis added by me):

Because Compass did not register its copyright until February 17, 2012 one day after the alleged infringement commenced the court finds as a matter of law that Compass is not entitled to an award of statutory damages or attorneys fees.

Ouch. That really sucks.

Remember that yourregistration has to be before the infringement actually began (or, in the case of published work, within 3 calendar months of first publication), not just before you discover the infringement, for you to be able to get statutory damages or attorneys’ fees. Clearly the courts are willing to say “One day too late, tough.”

Launching July 1

I’m excited to announce my new practice! Burns the Attorney will officially launch on July 1, 2016!

I’m also a little wistful about it. See, when I graduated from law school and took the bar, Carolyn Wright (PhotoAttorney.com) called me and offered me paralegal work while I waited for my results. When I found that I’d passed (huzzah!) and, shortly after, took my oath (5 years ago, today!), she offered me part-timework with her firm; not too much later, after proving myself worthwhile, I was brought on full-time. In other words, I’ve worked with her for my entire legal career thus far. Carolyn has been a true mentor in every way and I’m going to miss working with her; but, she’s reducing her practiceso it is time to move on*.

It is my intention to carry on much as she has. She’s been a great role model and it will be my honor to continue what she has taught. That is, I want to serve photographers as I have been, protecting their rights and helping them with their businesses.However, I also want to work more with other creative professionals like designers, illustrators, writers, etc., and I will be offering more legal services like estate planning.

In short, if you make art, I want to help you and your business.

You can find me on Facebook at /burnstheattorney (just click the Facebook icon in the footer, below) where I’ll be posting bits of news of interests to creatives, and on Twitter at BurnstheLawyer (or click the Twitter icon below). Longer format posts will appear on this page.

I’m really looking forward to this new adventure and to serving my clients, new and old, mindfully, with compassion, and as much like a normal human as any lawyer can be. 😉


* Carolyn will be keeping her license; also, PhotoAttorney will be wrapping up its cases over the next few months so I will be finishing up my work there over that time as I help the transition.